Acclaimed film producer Michael Moore broke all records for popularity for a documentary movie with Fahrenheit 9-11. Cultural conservatives successfully blocked CBS-TV from broadcasting a biography of Ronald Reagan because it showed how totally indifferent his presidential administration was to the HIV epidemic in the 1980s. That those same conservatives wanted to keep Fahrenheit 9-11 out of movie theaters made me want to see it even more. The first time I saw it, several scenes made me laugh out loud. At several other points the film's footage, never shown on TV news, made me angry and disgusted with the political system. When I saw it a second time, I kept emotions in check and focused on the very riveting dialog.
For instance, near the opening of the movie several members of the Congressional Black Caucus asked the U.S. Senate again and again to debate and discuss the hotly disputed November 2000 electoral college vote total. Sen. Lieberman nor any other senator would sign a petition to challenge the 537 Florida votes that allowed Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to cast the deciding vote to give the election to Bush. That situation is why it is so important that Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama be elected to the U.S. Senate this year.
All through this film the haunting question is posed: How could that happen? The answer is shown with behind-the-scenes looks at the forces of power and privilige in America.
Maybe because it was the era of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War and the end of legal slavery, the 1960s were a time of optimism. In the 1960s people felt American society was capable of achieving any and all good things. People had hopeful optimism that anyone could be successful as long as you worked hard and played by the rules.
Cynicism set in when people with violent and corrupt ideals got power.
In August 1964 President Johnson told Congress a U.S. ship was fired upon by North Vietnamese Communists. With no verified proof of that statement (which later was proven to be false), Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gave the President power to wage war against North Vietnam. In 2002 Bush asked for and got from Congress authority to wage war against Iraq based on the misleading, exaggerated claim of a grave threat posed by Iraq's possession of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
Against a pre-existing fear of Communism in 1964 and fear of terrorism in 2002, both presidents took advantage of having the benefit of doubt in a trusting public. In both wars a disproportionately large number of poor people became soldiers. In both wars the winners were the manufacturers of the weapons of war. Military contractors were wined and dined by Bush who called them the 'haves and the have mores.' There seemed to be no limit to how much they were paid, thru the creation of record U.S. budget deficits. Bush said, 'Some people call you the elites, I call you my base,' to a lavish banquet of millionaires.
Society is structured in the U.S. to allow individuals with initiative to prosper. But when tax cuts are targeted to benefit only the folks in the top 1% income bracket at the same time public school funding is cut, unfair affirmative action, preferential treatment and quotas are given to rich people. Trouble is that not too many people voice objection!
Many people are lured into ignorance of the world by weapons of mass distraction such as Xbox video games, and entertainment-only television. Those news-free TV channels celebrate the bling-bling lifestyles of the rich and famous and violent. Some people are well aware of evil and social injustice but choose not to be actively involved: falsely thinking that their participation in the system won't make a difference. Other people, steeped in the ethic of being never cooperative, ever competitive, want to be rich and are ruthless in that quest. They have no patience for those they'd call 'losers.'
Will there ever be a time when there is equal opportunity for poor people? Will healthcare ever become available to all people? Will public schools in big cities ever graduate 100% of their students with literacy sufficient for college or workplace responsibilities? It is hard to imagine such idealistic questions getting a yes answer.
The advances society has made over the past century give hope for the future. But change happens only when people ask tough questions and demand improvement in life. Faith must overcome fear. Here's hoping you will vote (for Sen. Kerry and Sen. Obama) Nov. 2, 2004. Stay informed. Read a newspaper every day, a magazine evey week, and a book every month. Maintain your values and optimism. Then get involved.